Mercedes-Benz Plans to Bring Teen Driving School to the U.S.

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is set to open in the U.S. in late 2011 to offer teen driver’s education

by  Jim Davis  | 

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death among teens in the United States. While technology is no doubt increasing the number of accidents among teens and across the board, lack of driving experience and training is unquestionably the leading factor. For these reasons, Mercedes-Benz USA is planning to offer driver’s education at the end of 2011. MBUSA aims to teach our teenagers the skills and competencies for safe and enjoyable driving.

At the center of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is an innovative driver’s education approach that reflects the very best teaching methods from around the world. MBUSA is currently finalizing and tailoring these methods to specifically meet the environment and needs in the United States.

The research-based approach is designed to improve the effectiveness of time spent in the classroom, online, and behind-the-wheel. The goal of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is to prepare students for today’s driving environment by going beyond basic car control skills and rote learning of traffic rules.

Research clearly identifies that the standard U.S. formula of 30-hour in-class education followed sequentially by 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training cannot reasonably be expected to transform a non-driver into a safe driver1.

“Despite the dramatic changes in vehicles, highways, and the driving environment over the past 60 years, driver education remains relatively unchanged in the U.S.,” said Alexander Hobbach, Senior Manager, Daimler AG. “The skills required to simply get a license do not fully prepare young drivers to meet the demands of the road. Mercedes-Benz recognizes this issue and as a result is creating an educational program for the U.S. that is based on the best teaching methods and tools available.”

Mercedes-Benz has been working with international driver education experts to develop an innovative curriculum-based program. A Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy in the U.K. was launched for the first time in 2009 based on this curriculum and since then 4,500 students have enrolled in the program. Amongst those who already obtained their driver’s license and participated in the program, had a first-time pass rate of 79 percent – nearly double the U.K. national average of 43 percent.

Mercedes-Benz is combining insights and key elements of the U.K. curriculum and delivery methods with U.S. DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) requirements to develop the integrated program that is going to be offered at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy in the U.S. later this year. Mercedes-Benz has already met with DMV representatives to discuss the development of an integrated curriculum that fulfills all state requirements, which positions the Company as the first and only auto manufacturer to offer a complete, state-certified driving school in the U.S.

“As a company, we have a long history and continuous efforts to improve vehicle safety so the Driving Academy is a natural extension of Mercedes-Benz desire to achieve accident-free driving,” said Hobbach. “With only 10 percent of crashes being a result of technical failure and 90 percent due to human error, Mercedes-Benz sees an opportunity to actively improve drivers’ skills, focusing first on novice drivers, who are most at risk on U.S. roads.”

It is well known that there is a disproportionately high driving incident rate among teen novice drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. In fact, teens aged 16-19 are four times more likely to crash than adults. While technology has led to more driver distractions, especially for teens, driver’s education is being offered in fewer and fewer high schools in the U.S. That is why many organizations and experts are seeking ways of improving driver’s education.

“Driving is one of the most important skills that a teen can learn, and it is extremely important that parents do their research before sending their child to a driving school,” said Daniel R. Mayhew, Senior Vice President, Traffic Injury Research Foundation. “Getting parents and teens working together is one crucial step among many that can better prepare beginner drivers.”

Due to the alarming rate of teen deaths caused by motor vehicle collisions, national and state legislators, regulators, law enforcement, public agencies and other safety advocates have worked hard over recent decades to find ways to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes on our highways for decades. In fact, Mercedes-Benz is also finalizing plans to work with leading driver safety advocacy organizations and law enforcement to create a public service outreach program that emphasizes safe driving and driver’s education.

Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy’s approach also seeks to achieve greater compliance with policies that have successfully been implemented to increase driver’s safety such as the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) rules. The GDL framework provides for compulsory driver’s education, combining classroom or online learning, on-road training, mandatory supervised practice, and restricted driving privileges once a novice driver starts driving solo. By using an integrated program to reinforce learning points throughout the learner driver period, as well as involving parents in the process, the students can realize greater benefits of GDL.

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